Simon Critchley Quotes
Simon Critchley (born 27 February 1960) is an English philosopher. He writes about the history of philosophy, political theory, religion, ethics, aesthetics, literature and theatre. He studied philosophy and has held visiting professorship at numerous universities. He has authored many books, and his work has been acknowledged. He argues that religious disappointment raises the question of meaning and has to, as he sees it, deal with the problem of nihilism; political disappointment provokes the question of justice and raises the need for a coherent ethics.
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For me philosophy begins with these experiences of disappointment: a disappointment at the level of what I would think of as "meaning," namely that, given that there is no God, what is the meaning of life? And, given that we live in an unjust world, how are we to bring about justice?
I've always been very keen on Pascal, and what I'm most keen on in Pascal is his emphasis upon human wretchedness. He has a phrase which goes something like 'Anxiety, boredom and inconstancy, that is the human condition' and I've always been very partial to that.
The only answer to the question of the meaning of life has to begin from the fact of our human finitude, of our vulnerability and our fallibility.
Genuinely great humour recognises the world it's describing and yet we are also called into question by it. That's what great art should do. That's what great philosophy should do. The one thing about humour is that this is an everyday practice that does this.
In relation to the question of hope, I think the only hope we have is hope against hope. We hope for a better world. But of course we can do better than just hope.
Philosophy for me is essentially atheistic. Now that's an anxious atheism. It's an atheism that is anxious because it inhabits questions that were resolved religiously in the pre-modern period.
Christianity in the West, opens up a perspective of depth into what it means to be a self. And that depth of the self is something that is experienced in the sight of God. So that the great thinkers of self and subjectivity are Paul and Augustine. They look at the self from the perspective of God and they find themselves wretched and interesting. Constituted by conflictual desires.
When the animal becomes human, the effect is pleasingly benign and we laugh outloud, "Okay come clean now. This isn't really about hunting, is it?" But when the human becomes animal, the effect is disgusting, and if we laugh at all, then it is what Beckett calls the "mirthless laugh", which laughs at that which is unhappy.
I have argued that philosophy doesn't begin in wonder or in the fact that things are, it begins in a realization that things are not what they might be. It begins with a sense of a lack, of something missing, and that provokes a series of questions.
Any philosophical and theoretical assurance that laughter is unique to the human being becomes somewhat unsure when one turns to the anthropological literature.
Now, if laughter is proper to the human being, then the human being who does not laugh invites the charge of inhumanity, or at least makes us somewhat suspicious.
There are lots of stories about how philosophy begins. Some people claim it begins in wonder; some people claim it begins in worry. I claim it begins in disappointment.
For me, philosophy is an activity of thought that is common to human beings. Human beings at their best.
My favourite writer is Beckett and I keep going back to wallow in his work like a deep pool of dark humour or like an oxygen tank when you can't breath in a world consumed by piety, hypocrisy and self-satisfaction.
I guess what happens to a lot of people as they get older is that they get more conservative, but with me, the opposite is the case.